Re: Free Lunches (was: OUTREACH 101)

Wayne Hayes (
Wed, 17 Dec 1997 12:34:33 -0500

"Michael M. Butler" <butler@comp*> and "Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin"
<> make a good point: that in terms of labour expended
to build the product, Linux is no more free than any other OS of
similar complexity. That is true, but I think they are confusing
"price" with "cost". I learned while working with a financial company
a few years ago what the difference is: the cost of something is how
much it, um, costs, to build it. The price is what you have to pay
to get it.

With that distinction in mind, it becomes clear that the cost of Linux
is just as high as other OS's of similar complexity, but the *price*
varies considerably as a function of who you are. If you are a Linux
developer, then your price can be quite high, depending on the number
of hours you spend developing. However, if you are not a Linux
developer, then the price is considerably lower.

"Lee Daniel Crocker" < (none)> writes:
>The point of TANSTAAFL is much more specific: nothing is free
>/even to the person for whom it is free/. Linux users who think
>they get it for free are paying a very high price in

I hope this doesn't degrade into a religious "my OS is better than
yours" war, but I'll try to answer your points objectively. I am
assuming that you are specifically referring Microsoft OS's.

>learning to use a more complex system

If you don't need the power that Unix provides, then you are correct.
However, the people who install Linux tend to be people who are already
familiar with Unix, so the cost has already been incurred for other
reasons. Granted, the people who install Linux these days tend to be
less "guru-like", but Linux has also kept up with becoming easier to
use --- within the bounds of being Unix, of course.

I would also argue that DOS and Windows are not always as "plug-and-play"
as they advertise, and that fixing the problems that can occur can sometimes
be just as costly and annoying as Linux can be. If not for the owner, then
for the entity that gets called in to fix it.

>sacrificing the productivity of lots of off-the-shelf software that's not

A few years ago that may have been true, but it's not anymore, for two

1) Linux is sufficiently popular that some commercial Unix suppliers are
starting to produce Linux versions of their software.

2) Linux is now capable of running DOS and Windows 95 programs. I have
not tried it, but a friend has run Wordperfect for Windows95, and MS
Internet Explorer 4.0, under Linux, using the WINE pacakage.

>increased cost in exchanging data with others

How? Linux can read and write DOS disks, communicate over the Internet
as well as (ha! better) than DOS/Windows, read/write DOS partitions on
a local hard drive...

>Paying $100 to get an OS that won't incur those costs is a bargain.

There's one more cost that a Linux user just can't resist mentioning:
rebooting costs. How often do you have to reboot your Windows 95 box,
due to application errors? The people who I talk to every day who
run Windows around here say that it is uncommon to get through a day
of heavy use without having to reboot at least once, with the encumbent
loss of time and data. Linux boxes routinely stay up for weeks or even
MONTHS on end without ever crashing.